My Family and Other Animals

My Family and Other Animals

My Family and Other Animals Part 3, Chapter 13 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The new villa is perched on a hill, surrounded by olive groves, orchards, and vineyards. It has a small fenced garden and looks very elegant. Gerry soon becomes interested in the praying mantises, many of which are huge. They fly in the house at night and are very aggressive and entirely fearless. The house is also populated by geckos that hunt in the house at night.
Again, it's telling that Gerry spends so much of his narration describing the animals and natural environment surrounding the house, while he simply neglects to describe how his family settles in. This reinforces where his interests lie.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
One gecko that Gerry calls Geronimo hunts often in Gerry's bedroom. He's aggressive and won't let any other gecko in the bedroom. When he attacks other geckos, he goes straight for their tails, which drop off as a defense mechanism. Every night he scuttles up the wall from his home in the flower bed, enters Gerry's room, and enthusiastically settles himself in his favorite corner to wait for his dinner to arrive. He hunts lacewing flies, beetles, and moths, and does so ferociously. He is also able to scare off the mantises until the night of the "great fight."
Geronimo exists alongside Madame Cyclops in that while Gerry forms an emotional attachment to him and observes him closely, he never feels the need to actually attempt to tame him. This shows that Gerry understands that it's perfectly reasonable to simply observe the natural world; it's not strictly necessary to bring it into his own human world.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
Friendship and the Care of Animals Theme Icon
Gerry is very interested in the breeding habits of the mantises and is thrilled to discover a very large female with a distended belly on a walk one day. When he catches her, she closes an arm around Gerry's thumb and makes him bleed. Gerry carefully catches her again so she can't hurt him, carries her home, and installs her in a cage in his room. He names her Cicely. When her belly is huge, she somehow escapes. Gerry notices her flying around one night and watches a look of fury come over Geronimo's face as Cicely lands near him.
Gerry's descriptions of Geronimo's emotional turmoil throughout the ensuing fight show the extent to which Gerry ascribes human characteristics to his beloved animals. Doing so allows him to easily dramatize the event, as well as encourage the reader to think of both Geronimo and Cicely as being almost human opponents in the fight of their lives.
Themes
Friendship and the Care of Animals Theme Icon
Geronimo begins angrily stalking towards Cicely. Cicely spreads her wings and turns to face him, which confuses Geronimo for a moment, but he finally decides to fight. He lunges at her and bites her thorax, she grabs his hind legs in her claws, and they stagger on the wall. Gerry considers interfering, but the fight is very interesting. After struggling for a few minutes, Cicely jumps off the ceiling but doesn't plan for Geronimo's weight. They fall onto the bed, and Gerry hops off. Cicely finally makes her fatal mistake: she grabs his tail, which Geronimo promptly drops. Geronimo takes the chance to chomp on Cicely's head, and she soon dies. Geronimo allows Gerry to clean his wounds and then heads for his garden bed.
Given Gerry's love for all his animals, it seems out of character that he doesn't immediately attempt to separate Geronimo and Cicely. The fact that he doesn't separate them, however, suggests that Gerry understands that he cannot completely control what happens in nature. This again situates nature as something that influences humans, not the other way around, and something that humans must then just learn to coexist with.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon
Friendship and the Care of Animals Theme Icon
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A couple weeks later, Geronimo allows another small gecko to join him in Gerry's room. One afternoon not long after, Gerry discovers two massive toads. Delighted by them, he races back to the villa with one in each hand and shows them to Mother and Spiro. Spiro promptly turns green and vomits outside, while Mother assures Gerry that the toads are lovely but not everyone agrees. The rest of the family has reactions similar to Spiro's, so Gerry cages the beasts in his room. That night, he lets the toads out to hunt for insects. Gerry throws a magazine at a large moth that landed next to Geronimo's friend, knocking the gecko off the ceiling. One of the toads snaps up the gecko, and Gerry feels horrible.
Mother's levelheaded explanation shows that she tries to bridge the gaps in interest between her children and friends and conceptualizes herself mostly as a peacekeeper. When Gerry is sad about the fate of Geronimo's gecko friend, it again seems somewhat incongruous given that he described Cicely's death with little emotion. Taken together, this indicates that Gerry is still a child who is both curious and emotional, which colors how he engages with his animals.
Themes
The Natural World Theme Icon
Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon
Friendship and the Care of Animals Theme Icon
Gerry shows the toads to Theodore on Thursday. Theodore proposes that the toads may be between 12 and 20 years old, given their size. He feeds one a worm and watches it shove the wriggling worm in its mouth with its thumbs, explaining that he loves watching toads eat worms—it reminds him of conjurers that pull ribbons out of their mouths. He wonders if he could teach toads to swallow blunt swords.
Theodore's glee about the toads and his wonderful musings about teaching them to swallow swords show again that, though Theodore is an adult and moves through the world as such, he absolutely still has a grasp on his childhood sense of wonder and fun.
Themes
Childhood, Adulthood, and Education Theme Icon